Bernie Ecclestone has admitted he is “surprised” a deal to revive the French grand prix is finally done. “It’s taken a long time but eventually we got there,” the F1 supremo told L’Equipe, after the five-year contract starting in 2018 at his own Paul Ricard circuit was announced. “I am very, very happy – the French grand prix is back,” said the 86-year-old, who has done the deal with promoter Christian Estrosi. Asked if he thought France might never come back to the calendar, Ecclestone admitted: “I am surprised that we got a new chance to bring it back. “The reason for the previous failures was mainly because they didn’t have a suitable circuit. Everything with Paul Ricard is very good. We’ll just have to install more grandstands, but the circuit has been kept in excellent condition,” he said.
Asked if he is disappointed a touted city race in Paris never came to fruition, Ecclestone answered: “We talked and talked, but when you spend that amount of time talking, it goes on forever. Formula E has a race in Paris but it’s not the same thing: it’s not a race. They don’t have the safety problems of a grand prix.”
He also said another problem with earlier French GP revival efforts was the involvement of too many “messengers” rather than decision makers. But he credited McLaren team boss and Frenchman Eric Boullier for being involved in the 2018 deal. “Eric was not a messenger, he was someone we negotiated with.” Asked when the French grand prix will be held in 2018, Ecclestone answered: “In the middle of summer, in synergy with the other European grands prix at that time of year. We’ll settle that later. “The most important thing is that the contract is signed.”